Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Storytelling, Student-Driven Passion Among the Highlights of LHRIC’s Tech Summit

A daylong schedule of keynote talks as well as demonstrations from some of the region’s leading technology vendors brought an array of local educators to the Nov. 2 Tech Summit 2015, sponsored by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center and held at Briarcliff’s Edith Macy Conference Center.

Angela Maiers, founder of Choose2Matter, speaks
at the LHRIC's Tech Summit
The Summit’s keynote topics were selected to help educators envision the future and to learn about successful programs that are “truly transformative in nature,” explained LHRIC Executive Director Dennis Lauro, in his introductory remarks.

“Students want to be in school, they wish to actively participate as contributors and creators of their own learning,” added Dr. Lauro, referring to the changes that are emerging in classrooms around the nation.

Dr. Lauro noted, in particular, the RIC’s Emerging Technologies Program, which was established over a year ago and is now in several local school districts. The program, he said, is here to help area teachers begin to make the change from a conventional classroom that uses technology to today’s classrooms where technology is transformational and is changing the way teachers teach and students learn.

The event also included several breakout sessions that included an update from Dr. Lauro on the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act technology purchasing requirements and the partnership opportunities the RIC can procure through its trusted technology vendors.

Jim Sill, director of global development for EdTechTeam, Inc., kicked off the stimulating day with a peak into the possibilities that video storytelling can provide for teachers and students, including ways it can highlight social issues.

Following a career as a TV and film producer, Mr. Sill transitioned to education, using his industry experience to create an award-winning video production program at a high school in Visalia, Ca., where he remained for several years.

During his morning keynote presentation titled, “Hi-Def EDU,” Mr. Sill introduced attendees to the kind of material he shares with educators all across the world, including Google’s collaborative tools and the social media and video production skills that are necessary to impact students’ education and their future careers.

“It’s all about stories that make an impact,” said Mr. Sill. “The film business has been doing this for a long time.”

Mr. Sill suggested that all schools use the SAMR model, a framework that is being implemented by educators to reflect on how technology can be used to enhance learning. The model, he added, is part of the national education curriculum in Australia, where Mr. Sill currently lives.

“You are the jumpers,” he said. “Throw the line over and make the bridge so others can follow along; that is an important piece of this.”

He also encouraged educators to be “beginnerish” about such video-based projects. “I know that’s hard for teachers because we are supposed to know it all and be the smartest person in the room, but often I like to give teachers permission to do that.”

Expanding the culture of passion and compassionate-driven learning was the basis for Angela Maiers’ breakout session titled, “Liberating Genius in the Classroom: Lessons for Launching Genius Hour.”

Believing there is a genius that lies within everyone, Ms. Maiers, the founder of Choose2Matter, passionately advocates for the kind of change she believes is necessary for the education system and for producing the next crop of graduates.

Beginning with a TedX talk she delivered in 2011 titled, “You Matter,” Ms. Maiers went on to create the Choose2Matter movement, a call to action that invites people to make “mattering” a way of life.

“If I knew that what I did mattered, if I was believed in and trusted, then I would run to school everyday,” said Ms. Maiers, the author of six books, including her most recent free e-book called, “Liberating Genius in the Classroom: The First 20 Days.”

In studying companies like Google and others that allow their employees to devote a portion of their work day to creatively thinking outside of the box. Ms. Maiers began to think about ways that schools could do something similar.

“How about one hour a week?” she said, referring to the initiative she created that is now known as “Genius Hour.”

“Would that be enough to change the thinking, to ensure that every kid and teacher mattered?”

The Choose2Matter movement has now reached sixty thousand classrooms in over 120 countries, where passion-driven work is the norm. Implementing the “You Matter Manifesto,” participating schools are encouraging students to accept their genius and to understand that mattering is a process, not an event and that it is essential to our existence, she explained.

In her afternoon keynote, “Getting TECH Right,” Ms. Maiers touched upon similar themes, noting that students who are passionate about the world around them and how they can make it a better place can often do so by the collaborative use of technology.

Forget the fancy tools that school districts often purchase, she noted. Instead, said Ms. Maiers, students should be shifting from a model of consumption to a model of contribution, sharing who they are, what they believe in and what they can do.

“Technology doesn’t motivate kids,” she added. “They are motivated by their ability to share, to collaborate, to make something extraordinary.” Ms. Maiers said humans in general are deeply motivated when they know they matter and are excited by what they can build together.

“Their future and their potential will be defined by what they share,” she said, referring to the importance of one’s digital footprint. “The difference is not technology; it’s the expectation.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Local Teachers, Administrators Receive LHRIC’s Pioneer Awards

The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center presented its well-respected annual Pioneer Awards May 15 to three teachers, a technology director and representatives of a Westchester school district, all of them lauded for preparing students for success through their innovative use of technology.

The awards ceremony, in its 22nd year, recognized the following educators:

Anthony Stirpe, center, surrounded by co-workers
and administrators from the New Rochelle Schools
Heidi Bernasconi, a science teacher at North High School in the Clarkstown School District who was recognized for her early adaption of the Google Apps for Education platform, as well as Anthony Stirpe, a scriptwriting and film literacy teacher in the English Language Arts Department at New Rochelle High School who facilitated the creation of short student films by using iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches.

The other award-winners included Joanne Tonkin, a second-grade teacher at Thiells Elementary School in the North Rockland School District who has allowed her young students to take learning into their own hands through the use of Chromebooks and Nexus tablets, and
Joanne Tonkin, center, pictured with educators
from the North Rockland School District
Michael Tromblee, director of technology for the Pelham School District who has facilitated a well-respected professional development model throughout the district as well as rolling out an extensive one-to-one initiative at all district schools.

The Tuckahoe School District received the Distinguished Pioneer Award for its “Technology for All” initiative, which facilitated the rollout of more than 1,000 Chromebooks throughout the district and a subsequent successful adoption of the technology that has also been recognized by Google.
Tuckahoe Schools Superintendent Barbara Nuzzi, center,
holds the Distinguished District Pioneer Award the district
received on May 15. She is surrounded by teachers and
administrators from the district.

The half-day event also included a keynote presentation by Dr. Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher in the San Francisco area. In his talk titled, “Sparking Student Inquiry,” Dr. Musallam talked about the importance of incorporating multimedia into classroom lessons in a way that is meaningful to both students and teachers.

The winners are chosen based on each candidate’s application, which includes information on how their efforts impact student learning, how they share innovative uses of technology with their colleagues and how they go above and beyond their normal duties as teachers and administrators.

“These awards are about pushing the envelope,” said the LHRIC’s Executive Director Dennis Lauro. “This is about being the leaders in our area and sharing exemplary work with each other.”

Other highlights of the day included a special recognition presentation to SWBOCES Chief Operating Officer/Deputy District Superintendent Sandra A. Simpson for her leadership and vision in helping direct the RIC’s technology efforts.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

TLI - Tech Expo Highlights Innovative Technology Practices

Over 350 educators from across the region turned out April 17 to attend the LHRIC’s popular Tech Expo 2015 and to learn from some of the nation’s leading experts on the growing influence of technology in the classroom and in students’ lives.

Now in its ninth year, the event continues to grow as school district representatives savor the opportunity to learn from the best, to network with their peers, to learn something from the more than 35 breakout seminars and work sessions and to meet face-to-face with some of the nation’s leading technology companies and sponsors of the daylong event.   

Dr. Tony Wagner speaks to a packed auditorium.
In his keynote presentation, Dr. Tony Wagner, expert-in-residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, urged his audience in the packed auditorium to put a larger context on the work of improving test scores and Common Core requirements.

“The world no longer cares about how much you know,” he said. “It’s about what you can do with what you know and how you prepare young people for innovation.”

Understanding the role of teachers, mentors and the larger school setting in an innovation world is crucial, he noted. For his book, “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World,” Dr. Wagner interviewed groups of highly motivated twentysomethings from various schools and different backgrounds around the country in an effort to discover the skills of successful innovators and why they are important to the future.

He wanted to find out if their parental, teaching and mentoring influences were any different from other students. Many of them attend top schools like the MIT Media Lab; the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Boston; High Tech High in San Diego, a network of charter schools spanning grades K-12, the Regio Emilia network of schools abroad and others.

What was evident in many of these schools was that students were encouraged to pursue real interests versus merely achieving academically. In the younger years, parents and teachers encouraged more exploratory play, such as using fewer toys without batteries and integrating “whimsy” into every project.

“We have been talking about getting kids college-ready for years,” said Dr. Wagner to the audience, many of them superintendents from across the region. “But guess what, it’s not enough, not even by half.”

Dr. Wagner explained that many of today’s employers are seeking different criteria from their prospective employees. Fifteen percent of the new hires at Google don’t have a college degree, and the word “college” does not appear on the jobs section of its website, he added.

To better prepare students for this new landscape, Dr. Wagner suggested that schools teach the skills that matter most. “No Common Core can begin to do that,” he said. “We’ve got to be clear about the competencies that matter most, including creative thinking, collaboration, communication and creative problem-solving.”

Dr. Wagner contends, however, that no innovation can take place without a certain amount of research and development. “Does anyone have an R&D budget?” he asked. In one Westchester school district, Dr. Wagner said he is working with administrators to develop an “innovation fund,” to which teachers can apply.

The key to successful innovation is ultimately student motivation, he explained. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as an example, Dr. Wagner suggested that schools create their own pyramid and tap into the top tiers of it, primarily those that include technology for communication, technology for collaboration and at the top, technology for creation.

Some in the audience wondered how school districts could achieve such a thing knowing the constraints and obligations many of them are under to comply with state mandates.

“You’re not going to flip this overnight,” Dr. Wagner replied. “The first challenge is to understand that the time we are spending on test prep is entirely wasted. Kids don’t remember what they don’t connect to in some way. We should reduce test prep, but I don’t think we can’t eliminate it.”

Dr. Wagner encouraged his listeners to see the film Most Likely to Succeed, which he collaborated on. The documentary is a powerful account of the current crisis in the American educational system and is currently showing in select New York movie theaters.

In response to questions from the audience that spoke to parents’ approval of a traditional education system, Dr. Wagner advised them to have conversations with their communities that can ultimately help them understand the merits of an education that is more geared toward the 21st century workplace.

“Leaders rarely spend enough time helping communities understand why the education system should change,” he said. “You need an understanding and an urgency around change before you start to see it.”

A wide variety of breakout sessions took place throughout the day, including workshops on coding, Microsoft’s free tools for classroom use, interactive ebooks for learning, Google Apps, the Maker movement at the elementary school level, social media in education, instruction with iPads, the benefits of blended learning and more.

Additional keynote presentations included “The Power of Google Apps for Education” by Jaime Casap, senior education evangelist at Google, Inc., and “Using Social Media in Education” from Dr. Alec Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina, Canada.

To see photos from the event, check out the LHRIC/SWBOCES Flickr page at:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January TLI Presentations Focus on New Learning Landscape

Preparing students for a world that has been transformed by technology should be top of mind for educators these days, noted Jeff Utecht and Shelly Sanchez Terrell, presenters at the LHRIC’s Jan. 8 TLI event held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Jeff Utecht presenting at the recent TLI event
Both experts stressed the importance of engaging students through the appropriate use of the Internet, using social media channels as a learning opportunity and being accepting of the various tech channels that young people subscribe to these days.

In his talk titled, “A New Learning Landscape,” Mr. Utecht, an educational technology consultant, educator and author, recalled his travels across the globe and the various uses of technology that have cropped up in the most unlikely of places.

The Washington State native remembered the time he was riding on a camel in the Saudi Arabian desert a couple of years ago, and when the person leading the way pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, Utecht was in awe since there was no cell phone tower to be seen.

During a visit to a small community in Laos, where villagers often band together to purchase one cell phone, Mr. Utecht was taken aback by the entrepreneurial spirit of one young man who had set up ink jet printers outdoors and was printing pictures from cell phones.

Utecht said technology has become so ubitiquous that most of us can no longer mark the dividing line between our work and home lives. “In an always on world, we are seeing that line completely fade away, and as a result, we expect people to manage their own time,” Mr. Utecht added.

Knowing that students are also heavily invested in this “always on world,” Mr. Utecht wanted to know what local school districts are doing to maintain social networks in their school buildings.

Connection is crucial
“The foundation of the Internet is to connect people,” Mr. Utecht noted. Even the new Common Core State Standards encourage students to write online, he said.

Teachers shouldn’t worry about the tools and technology platforms their students are accessing. “The important thing is that we get technology into their hands, because we want every kid to have an app called the Internet.”

In addition, he said that school-wide wireless access should be a given in every district. “In fact, every school should serve as a public hotspot, providing open Internet access to the public after 5 p.m. and on weekends.”

As well as that, every teacher should have a computer that gives him or her administrative rights, and if schools do not allow students to use school-owned devices, they should be able to bring their own to school, he added.

How much time a child is allowed on the Internet at home is completely up to parents, Mr. Utecht emphasized. “But really, it shouldn’t be whether or not they are on a computer, but how much time they spend creating versus consuming.” Creating content, like the activities that Minecraft encourages, is good for students. “We have to consume before we create,” he added.

Mr. Utecht urged participants to examine what they’re teaching in schools and to tailor their instruction to the tools and applications that are available on the Internet. Teaching digital mapping skills, showing students the various parts of a Google search webpage, teaching them online reading strategies and how to highlight words, use sticky notes and other strategies are all skills they should know as they prepare for the new computer-based testing.

“I encourage you to continue to push forward,” he told the group. “We need to find the walls and keep tearing them down, move past our fears, educate our students for the future and not their past, and just do what’s right for the kids.”

In her presentation titled, “Byte-sized Potential in a Digital World of Possibilities,” Terrell talked about giving students the responsibility to accomplish “practically anything in the world” using technology.

Having traveled the globe training students and teachers, Terrell knows that technology can be accessed by anyone, no matter where they come from. Some examples include students she taught in refugee camps who have taught themselves English through YouTube and Minecraft.

“When you are working with students and technology, there may be times when they will screw up,” said Terrell. “But if students never messed up, how could they correct their behavior?

Setting goals day by day
Terrell is someone who is not afraid to try something new. In 2009, she signed up for Twitter and a year later decided to start blogging. As the blog matured, she kept coming up with a list of goals and ideas she could write about on her blog. When 2011 rolled around, Terrell decided to plan her goals with a support group and that’s when the 30 Goals Challenge began.

Today, there are 10,000 teachers from around the world who have joined Terrell and accomplished at least one goal. Some goals might be as simple as giving a student a high five, others might entail writing a note to a parent praising his or her child's performance in the classroom, while another might focus on the decision to let students choose their own topics for learning on any given day.

The idea, she said, is to inspire teachers and students as well as help them build valuable relationships. “You can’t expect your students to see their byte-sized potential unless you do that too,” she noted.

This year, Terrell expects to continue with the project, but is also going to focus on the stories that came out of the various goals and the effect they had on teachers and students.

Growing online education discussion
Three years ago, Terrell and fellow educators Steve Anderson and Tom Whitby created the hashtag #Edchat on Twitter. The idea was to create a collaborative tool for educators to debate and evaluate solutions focused on teaching and learning.

Terrell said there are now approximately 500 teacher conversations under the #Edchat hashtag. Even Education Secretary Arnie Duncan has followed the discussions, she added.

“I think it’s really important that our students see we are willing to jump in there,” said Terrell, referring to the activities of instructors online. “We don’t have to have the answers, but if we are daring them to do something, we have to be daring ourselves.”